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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Agent operational guidance: dishonest tax agents: getting access to an agent’s files: file access notice: overview

When we need to see a tax agent’s files, and an informal approach has not got us what we need, we can give the person who holds the documents a file access notice.

We can give a file access notice to

  • a tax agent who has received a conduct notice, once any appeal has been confirmed in our favour, or the time limit to appeal has expired
  • a tax agent who has already been convicted of an offence of fraud or dishonesty in relation to tax
  • a third party who holds the documents, if the tax agent does not hold the documents.

We can only issue a file access notice after

  • an authorised officer has made an application to the tribunal, or has agreed that another officer makes the application to the tribunal, see CH882700 


  • the tribunal has approved the file access notice, see CH882750.

We must only use a file access notice to get documents that will help us establish the full extent of the dishonest conduct.

The kind of documents we can get are listed at CH182620. There are restrictions on the documents we can require, see CH182700. If we need information we can use our powers under FA08/SCH36.

We must give the person an opportunity to make representations to us and the tribunal before we issue a file access notice. We do this by sending an opportunity letter, see CH882530. We must also give the tax agent the opportunity to make representations before we issue a notice to a third party.

Once issued, only the third party can appeal against a notice and only appeal on the grounds that it is unduly onerous to comply with, see CH882800.

The tax agent cannot appeal against a file access notice.

The recipient of the notice may be liable to penalties if they fail to comply, see CH883100.

There is technical guidance about file access notices starting at CH182520.